This is a guest post from Parker James. I really enjoyed his analysis below. I believe that wealth attained on earth shouldn’t be squandered on earthly pleasures, but should be used to advance God’s Kingdom. In doing so, we not only have a wonderfully fulfilling life, but we also store up treasures in Heaven. Read Parker’s take on it below and let us know what you think.
Why does God give riches?
The two main camps in Christian churches fight over this question. One side believes that God desires us to experience prosperity, and we just need to ask in faith. The other side says life as a Christian is actually one of suffering, so to ask for prosperity is wrong, because we should tend to others in need.
There are plenty of good arguments and controversy on both sides. To resolve this debate and take one side over the other would be lengthy and complex. Plus, I don’t have an answer. What I do have is a perspective which draws on what I see as good on both sides. This perspective comes from 2 Corinthians 9:10-14…
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”
First, it does say that God, “he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food,” actually also will “increase your store of seed.” It doesn’t say how. It doesn’t say when. But it does say “You will be made rich in every way.”
I believe that the first camp I described does inject a powerful, positive view of faith. But they don’t always clearly articulate why we should be asking. James 4:1-3 makes clear that sometimes “when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” Because that has been left open-ended, sometimes asking for prosperity appears selfish.
But the scripture above states two outcomes of God making one “rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” In particular, there are two desired outcomes from this giving: “So two good things will result from this ministry of giving — the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.” (MSG)
Meeting the needs of others and spreading the Gospel, showing others “that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ” seems to be a powerful way to operate in God’s economy. In other words, the riches — this could be financial, skills, relationships (although I believe it’s a strong argument it is financial because of the reference to “store of seed”) — are designed to help others in need and, as a result, “many others thank God.”
So, how much is to be given away?
Again, no specifics. But “he will increase what you have, so that you can give even more to those in need.” (CEV) “Even more” suggests that whatever God has done to “increase your store of seed” and “enlarge the harvest of your righteousness” should be exceeded by what you give. Doing so demonstrates “You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else.”
So let’s play forward this interpretation.
What if the Kingdom of God really were like yeast: that just a little bit helps to raise the dough? That by our acts of generosity from the increases from God causes others to praise God. And they see our generosity as, in fact, an increase from God as well. Which causes them to take that increase and give to others.
Rinse and repeat.
It becomes a virtuous cycle of abundance. It enables those “made rich in every way” to, as the second camp desires, participate in the redemption of a broken world. It unleashes God’s multiplier effect.
What does it mean practically in terms of “personal finance”?
One common strategy is to set goals. Typically, those are to buy a house, save for the kid’s college, save up for retirement. But with this optic of how God desires the riches to be used, can you imagine if the goals were specifically, prayerfully, and intentionally designed to help others?
What if a goal was to increase savings by $5000 to create micro-loans to free those in the sex-trade? What if it was to make an extra $3500 to pay for low-cost electric generators in poor countries improve farming efficiency and literacy? And what if, somehow, in this intricate economy where our generosity meets faith, we continue to experience an increase?
I don’t know if by asking God He will always provide riches by the world’s standards. And I’m not sure everyone who is Christian is destined for a life of suffering. But I do know that I want to participate in God’s economy where He provides increase that “will result in thanksgiving to God” and more people will pray and know God “because of the surpassing grace God has given to you.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.